Gates Contradicts McCain, Says Iraq Debate Has Been ‘Helpful’

Earlier this week, Sen. John McCain appeared on NBC’s Today Show and said that the Senate debate over an Iraq phased withdrawal plan is aiding the enemy:

Look, the only guarantee of failure is to tell the enemy, “Hey, hang on; we’re leaving.” That’s what this message, this vote yesterday, tells them. I mean, a second-year cadet at West Point will tell you you don’t win wars by telling the enemy when you’re leaving.

McCain’s view is not shared by Bush’s Defense Secretary. Testifying before the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Robert Gates said that the Iraq debate in Congress has been “helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government.” Watch the two clips:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/03/gatesmccaincontra.320.240.flv]

Gates added that the congressional debate informs Iraqis that “there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.” That’s a not a message McCain is interested in sending; he prefers signaling an open-ended commitment in Iraq.


CRAMER: I was at the breakfast the other day when you smoke, and your words were brief, and the questions were tough of you. I want to get into some of the questions and make sure I heard what I think I heard. Question was about the supplemental and where we are. You made some remarks about the pressure that we’ve caused on the Maliki government, the Iraqi government there, and how helpful that was. If i heard you right, that’s what I thought you were saying. I particularly have been frustrated with their lack of progress, and as new as I am to this subcommittee, it’s frustrating to hear how unaccountable they’ve been for their investment in this war, their timely seat at the table with spending money, making sure it’s spent in the right way. Incredible issues. I want to give you the chance to further comment about how you think we can keep this pressure on the Maliki government, the Iraqi government, and transfer part of this responsibility to them.

GATES: I’d make two comments Mr. Cramer. First, what I said at the Army caucus breakfast was that I believe that the debate here on the Hill and the issues that have been raised have been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government and on the Iraqis in knowing that there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.